El Nido was originally a project of the Los Angeles Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. This group established a Children's Bureau in Los Angeles in 1925, and three years later built a camp/residential center for underprivileged and "pe-tubercular" girls in Laurel Canyon. From 1933 until the early 1940s, the residential center served girls living in the Los Angeles area who had behavioral problems, or who required health service for such problems as tuberculosis or eating disorders, and who were in need of "special vocational guidance." At some point thereafter, operation of the Children's Bureau passed to the Council of Jewish Women of Los Angeles, Inc. This California corporation, with identical membership to the Los Angeles Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, may have been organized as a parallel agency to facilitate local fund raising and participation in the Los Angeles Community Chest.
During World War II and its aftermath the Los Angeles Jewish Women's Council was particularly concerned with the welfare of emigres from Nazi oppression in Europe. The Children's Bureau Agency used the Laurel Canyon center as a temporary Jewish refugee center for children going into the American foster care system and for young immigrant single mothers or widows with young children adapting to the United States as their new home. Working with the National Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the Los Angeles Emigre Service, the Agency created and ran "Americanization and Naturalization programs" on behalf of their foreign clients.
In 1954, the Council's articles of incorporation stated its purpose "to sponsor a social agency carrying on a program of social service in the fields of child guidance, service to the foreign born, and such other social service programs as the Los Angeles Section of the National Council of Jewish Women shall agree upon." By the mid 1950s most Jewish refugees bound for Los Angeles had arrived and been given full assistance by the Council, and the agency's attention began to focus exclusively on disadvantaged adolescent girls. During the 1960s and 1970s, due to the rapidly increasing ethnic diversity of Los Angeles communities, the Children's Bureau Agency began servicing disadvantaged adolsescent girls, some with a history of violence, many of whom were wards of the local Court System, with residential therapy and counseling services. Their problems ranged from such school difficulties as truancy, to criminal activities such as prostitution, gang membership, and substance abuse. In addition, the purposes of the Los Angeles Council of Jewish Women began to diverge from those of its originator, the National Council of Jewish Women. El Nido had always been non-sectarian in its staffing and service policies, but in the 1970s the rapidly increasing ethnic diversity of the communities in which it operated created a need for an ethnically and culturally diverse board of directors rather than with one with membership drawn solely from the Los Angeles Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. The complicated split between "the Section" and El Nido, finalized in 1978, freed the agency from sectarian obligation, but also left it without the financial support and sponsorship of the National Council of Jewish Women.
In the mid-1970s El Nido Services owned and operated three residential lodges for troubled teenage girls, and also started an outreach program of preventative counseling for at-risk youth in Los Angeles school districts. However, in 1980, El Nido Services lost the lease of its largest residential building, making operation of its smaller units economically impossible. Building on the outreach program in the Los Angeles school district, the board members of the Agency reorganized their operations in 1981 to provide a variety of counseling services from newly established outpost offices to fifteen Los Angeles communities under a new name: Children, Youth and Parent Counseling. The goals of the counseling program were threefold. They centered on preventive intervention: to avert future emotional problems of children of divorced parents; to support the completion of school and provide job placement skills for teen-agers who became parents; and to provide alternative activities for young adults at high risk for becoming involved in criminal activities.
These agency records, which cover the most mundane practical details of El Nido's operations, documenting its real estate management, zoning battles, tax questions, insurance and "disaster preparedness" provisions, and occasional personnel problems, reflect also the difficulties confronting an agency in the late 1970s that found itself providing outmoded services to a radically changed client population. As El Nido negotiated to free itself from close association with the Section, it also re-evaluated its program and its ability to manage, as an open institution, the increasingly violent and seriously delinquent girls referred to it by county probation departments. The loss if its largest facility in 1980 provided an opportunity for El Nido to reassess its organization. By then welfare policy makers, and some legislators, had begun to promote family preservation in virtually all circumstances, and to disfavor social services provided to adolescents separated from their families in residential facilities. That the El Nido board of directors was deeply engaged in the debate is evident from legislative material collected here, and from its correspondence, particularly with the California Association of Children's Residential Centers which was leading an advocacy campaign in the legislature for maintenance of residential services.
In 1981, after the inevitable closure of the residential facilities which had been the setting for El Nido's operation for decades, the agency turned to the business of fund raising, promotion, and development of outpost offices where it would provide a variety of social services in fifteen Los Angeles communities under a new name--Children, Youth & Parent Counseling.